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Mots. Les langages du politique, n°116/2018

Mots. Les langages du politique, n°116/2018

Dire ou ne pas dire la « race » en France aujourd'hui

Edited by Émilie Devriendt, Michèle Monte, Marion Sandré

Mots. Les langages du politique

The R-word: talking/not talking about race in France today

Contemporary public discourse often invokes equality under the laws of the republic and universalist values while resorting to the negative or positive stereotyping of groups (defined by the physical appearance of individuals, their culture, their religion and/or what is supposed to be their way of life). That seeming paradox is a recurring feature of public discourse whether the term race is used or not. That is the "French dilemma" described by academics: the generalization of the racial lexicon in the French public sphere contradicts the classical understanding of the French republican model, which is blind to the minority status of racialized groups. The use of racial categories (whether when the term race is used or when the concept is activated) is also debated when found in explicitely anti-racist and anti-discriminatroy discourse, which is the case of institutional or activist discourse, and/or in the discourse of identity politics (in the case of what is called political anti-racist discourse).

The aforesaid “racial paradox” consists in recognizing the actual inexistence of human races, while using racial categories to describe a social process of racialization and its actual effects. The papers in this dossier analyse how “race” is talked about or not in the media or in the political sphere. They shed new light on the pros and cons of talking about race in France today and beyond that question, they explore whether antiracist, activist or academic discourses should do so.